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Missoula

Cover of Missoula

Missoula

Rape and the Justice System in a College Town
From bestselling author Jon Krakauer, a stark, powerful, meticulously reported narrative about a series of sexual assaults at the University of Montana ­— stories that illuminate the human drama behind the national plague of campus rape

Missoula, Montana, is a typical college town, with a highly regarded state university, bucolic surroundings, a lively social scene, and an excellent football team the Grizzlies with a rabid fan base.

The Department of Justice investigated 350 sexual assaults reported to the Missoula police between January 2008 and May 2012. Few of these assaults were properly handled by either the university or local authorities. In this, Missoula is also typical.

A DOJ report released in December of 2014 estimates 110,000 women between the ages of eighteen and twenty-four are raped each year. Krakauer's devastating narrative of what happened in Missoula makes clear why rape is so prevalent on American campuses, and why rape victims are so reluctant to report assault.

Acquaintance rape is a crime like no other. Unlike burglary or embezzlement or any other felony, the victim often comes under more suspicion than the alleged perpetrator. This is especially true if the victim is sexually active; if she had been drinking prior to the assault — and if the man she accuses plays on a popular sports team. For a woman in this situation, the pain of being forced into sex against her will is only the beginning of her ordeal. If she decides to go to the police, undertrained officers sometimes ask if she has a boyfriend, implying that she is covering up infidelity. She is told rape is extremely difficult to prove, and repeatedly asked if she really wants to press charges. If she does want to charge her assailant, district attorneys frequently refuse to prosecute. If the assailant is indicted, even though victim's name is supposed to be kept confidential, rumors start in the community and on social media, labeling her a slut, unbalanced, an attention-seeker. The vanishingly small but highly publicized incidents of false accusations are used to dismiss her claims in the press. If the case goes to trial, the woman's entire personal life often becomes fair game for the defense attorneys.

This brutal reality goes a long way toward explaining why acquaintance rape is the most underreported crime in America. In addition to physical trauma, its victims often suffer devastating psychological damage that leads to feelings of shame, emotional paralysis and stigmatization. PTSD rates for rape victims are estimated to be 50 percent, higher than for soldiers returning from war.

In Missoula, Krakauer chronicles the searing experiences of several women in Missoula — the nights when they were raped; their fear and self-doubt in the aftermath; the way they were treated by the police, prosecutors, defense attorneys; the public vilification and private anguish; their bravery in pushing forward and what it cost them.

Some of them went to the police. Some declined to go to the police, or to press charges, but sought redress from the university, which has its own, noncriminal judicial process when a student is accused of rape. In two cases the police agreed to press charges and the district attorney agreed to prosecute. One case led to a conviction; one to an acquittal. Those women courageous enough to press charges or to speak publicly about their experiences were attacked in the media, on Grizzly football fan sites, and/or to their faces. The university expelled three of the accused rapists, but one was reinstated by state officials in a secret proceeding. One...
From bestselling author Jon Krakauer, a stark, powerful, meticulously reported narrative about a series of sexual assaults at the University of Montana ­— stories that illuminate the human drama behind the national plague of campus rape

Missoula, Montana, is a typical college town, with a highly regarded state university, bucolic surroundings, a lively social scene, and an excellent football team the Grizzlies with a rabid fan base.

The Department of Justice investigated 350 sexual assaults reported to the Missoula police between January 2008 and May 2012. Few of these assaults were properly handled by either the university or local authorities. In this, Missoula is also typical.

A DOJ report released in December of 2014 estimates 110,000 women between the ages of eighteen and twenty-four are raped each year. Krakauer's devastating narrative of what happened in Missoula makes clear why rape is so prevalent on American campuses, and why rape victims are so reluctant to report assault.

Acquaintance rape is a crime like no other. Unlike burglary or embezzlement or any other felony, the victim often comes under more suspicion than the alleged perpetrator. This is especially true if the victim is sexually active; if she had been drinking prior to the assault — and if the man she accuses plays on a popular sports team. For a woman in this situation, the pain of being forced into sex against her will is only the beginning of her ordeal. If she decides to go to the police, undertrained officers sometimes ask if she has a boyfriend, implying that she is covering up infidelity. She is told rape is extremely difficult to prove, and repeatedly asked if she really wants to press charges. If she does want to charge her assailant, district attorneys frequently refuse to prosecute. If the assailant is indicted, even though victim's name is supposed to be kept confidential, rumors start in the community and on social media, labeling her a slut, unbalanced, an attention-seeker. The vanishingly small but highly publicized incidents of false accusations are used to dismiss her claims in the press. If the case goes to trial, the woman's entire personal life often becomes fair game for the defense attorneys.

This brutal reality goes a long way toward explaining why acquaintance rape is the most underreported crime in America. In addition to physical trauma, its victims often suffer devastating psychological damage that leads to feelings of shame, emotional paralysis and stigmatization. PTSD rates for rape victims are estimated to be 50 percent, higher than for soldiers returning from war.

In Missoula, Krakauer chronicles the searing experiences of several women in Missoula — the nights when they were raped; their fear and self-doubt in the aftermath; the way they were treated by the police, prosecutors, defense attorneys; the public vilification and private anguish; their bravery in pushing forward and what it cost them.

Some of them went to the police. Some declined to go to the police, or to press charges, but sought redress from the university, which has its own, noncriminal judicial process when a student is accused of rape. In two cases the police agreed to press charges and the district attorney agreed to prosecute. One case led to a conviction; one to an acquittal. Those women courageous enough to press charges or to speak publicly about their experiences were attacked in the media, on Grizzly football fan sites, and/or to their faces. The university expelled three of the accused rapists, but one was reinstated by state officials in a secret proceeding. One...
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  • From the cover Chapter One

    Office Solutions & Services, a Missoula office-products company, didn't have its 2011 Christmas party until January 6, 2012. As a counterpoint to the chilly Montana evening, the staff decorated the place in a Hawaiian motif. Around 9:00 p.m., thirty or forty people—employees and their families, mostly—were chatting, playing party games, and sipping beverages from red plastic cups in a room overlooking the parking lot when a shiny Chrysler 300 sedan pulled up and rolled to a stop in front of the floor-to-ceiling windows, attracting the attention of the revelers. Two well-dressed men with dour expressions got out of the vehicle and stood beside it. "It was a really nice black car," recalls Kevin Huguet, the owner of Office Solutions.

    As he was admiring the Chrysler, one of Huguet's salesmen asked, "Who are those guys?"

    Huguet had no idea. So he walked outside and asked, "Can I help you?"

    "We're Missoula police detectives," the man who had been driving the car replied. "I just need to talk to Allison."

    "Allison is my daughter," Huguet said, his hackles rising. "You're going to have to tell me a little more than that."

    "Dad, it's okay," twenty-two-year-old Allison Huguet interjected, having walked out to the parking lot shortly after her father.

    Detective Guy Baker, who is six foot five and weighs 250 pounds, peered down at Allison, a slender woman with bright eyes and a ponytail. "I need to talk to you," he said. "We don't have to do this in front of your dad. How do you want us to handle this?" He and Allison walked away from the car to speak privately, while Detective Mark Blood remained behind with Kevin Huguet.

    "Hey," Baker said to Allison in a warmer voice when they'd moved a short distance away. They'd become acquainted four years earlier, during her final year of high school, when she asked him to serve as her mentor for a school project. It had been a positive experience for both of them. Explaining why he'd shown up during the company Christmas party, he said, "I thought it was important to tell you in person as soon as possible: About an hour ago I arrested Beau Donaldson. I got a full confession from him, and he is in jail."

    Allison's eyes brimmed with tears of relief.

    Over by the Chrysler, Kevin Huguet grew impatient as he watched Allison and Baker conferring. "You know what?" he told Detective Blood after a few minutes. "I want to know what's going on here. This is my daughter, and I want to know what's going on." Kevin abruptly strode away and confronted Baker.

    "She didn't do anything bad," Baker said. "It's not like that." Then Baker turned to Allison and said, "I think you really need to talk to your dad and tell him."

    Allison faced her father and, in a shaky voice, declared, "Beau raped me."

    Kevin stood on the cold pavement, gobsmacked. Struggling to make sense of the words his daughter had just spoken, he wrapped his arms around her. As he hugged Allison and began to process what Beau Donaldson had done to her, Kevin's shock and confusion turned into blinding rage.

    "I thought he was going to find Beau and kill him or something," Allison told me, recalling the events of that night.

    Beau Donaldson, a junior at the University of Montana at the time of the assault, was on the school's football team. Allison Huguet was attending Eastern Oregon University on a track scholarship. They had grown up together in Missoula and had been inseparable friends since the first grade, but the relationship had never been romantic.

    Donaldson often referred to Huguet as his "little sister," and the sentiment was reciprocated. Throughout her...
About the Author-
  • Jon Krakauer is the author of Eiger Dreams, Into the Wild, Into Thin Air, Under the Banner of Heaven, Where Men Win Glory, and Three Cups of Deceit, all of which are available in Anchor paperback and eBook editions. He is also the editor of the Modern Library Exploration series.

    "Jon Krakauer combines the tenacity and courage of the finest tradition of investigative journalism with the stylish subtlety and profound insight of the born writer." —American Academy of Arts and Letters Award in Literature citation
Reviews-
  • AudioFile Magazine Krakauer delves into the case files of several high-profile rape cases in the college town of Missoula, Montana, between 2008 and 2012. Though one might anticipate that a male narrator would deliver Krakauer's powerful stories, Mozhan Marno proves a great choice. Her commanding tone and cadence keep the flow between paragraphs. Where the text suggests it, she imbues hints of emotion without being heavy-handed. She also provides vocal characterizations that are in line with Krakauer's portrayals. Her most powerful delivery comes in women's firsthand accounts of their sexual assaults. Scott Brick bookends Marno's narration with an introduction and author's note, though it would have been better to keep Marno or have Krakauer do them himself. L.E. © AudioFile 2015, Portland, Maine
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Missoula
Missoula
Rape and the Justice System in a College Town
Jon Krakauer
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